Time Capsule: Gregg Bissonette’s Turquoise Fade Mapex Orion Kit


Gregg Bissonette is one of the most versatile drummers around today. Few drummers could be equally at home playing with jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson’s band one day and rocking out with David Lee Roth’s band the next. This kind of versatility has landed Bissonette in gigs with an extraordinarily wide array of the world’s top artists, like Andrea Bocelli, Santana, Pat Boone, Toto, Ray Charles, Duran Duran, Don Henley, Andy Summers, and the legendary Spinal Tap, to name a few.

This turquoise fade Mapex Orion maple drum set has been on some celebrated stages. The complete set includes a 24″ x 18″ bass drum, 14″ x 14″ and 16″ x 16″ floor toms, 10″ x 10″ and 12″ x 10″ mounted toms, and a 14″ x 6.5″ snare. He played a slightly abbreviated kit with Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band, using just one 12″ mounted tom and a single 16″ floor tom. But he used the complete set as one of his “go-to” sets for session work in the Los Angeles area before retiring the set shortly after switching to Dixon drums in 2014.

Bissonette’s greatest influence and drum hero has been Starr ever since his father took him to see The Beatles in 1966. He learned to play drums by playing along to Beatles records and studied their music intensely, even playing Beatle songs in cover bands during his formative years. He also dedicates a large segment of his drum clinics to analyzing his hero’s drumming.

In 2003 Bissonette landed a dream gig when Starr asked him to play on a tour for his “Ringo Rama” album. It went well, and the combination of his versatility and deep understanding of Starr’s drumming led to an invitation to join the All Starr Band in 2008. Ten years later, he’s still with the band.

Bissonette played the turqoise fade kit on the 2010 All Starr Band tour, which included the July 7 birthday show with Starr and fellow Beatle Paul McCartney. Any opportunity to play drums side by side with Ringo Starr would be considered a career high point for most drummers, but the night that he played with McCartney was the cherry on top. McCartney surprised everyone by joining the band on stage for a celebration for Starr’s 70th birthday at Radio City Music Hall, and Bissonette and Starr each played on their own kit while McCartney played bass and sang The Beatles’ “Birthday.”

Donn Bennett is an eminent collector and dealer of rare and vintage drums. His collection is on display at Donn Bennett Drum Studio in Bellevue, Washington. donn@bennettdrums.com